The Joy Of…

Editing. Even though I write romance novels, you totally knew I was going to say editing.

I spent half of September, and all of October, November, and December editing. Not just normal editing, but the process of turning first drafts into second. It’s been productive as I have turned three different first draft romance novels into second drafts, which tends to be the hardest revision for me.

Some authors a pretty awesome first draft. That would not be me.

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Editing takes me far more time than writing

 

I also did a late draft edit on Knight of Valor. This took about ten days because I’ve been polishing it for a while now.

Progress Ahead

You can always check out my WIP page if you want to see what I’m working on. One of my goals for 2017 is to actually press the publish button on Crowned Prince. Working on finding a good romance cover artist with space for a first-time author now, and I want to do one last edit of it as well. I also need to learn how to format an e-book and use Createspace to make a paperback of it.

Lots of learning ahead!

Rewriting, as hard and messy and unpleasant as it can be, has a certain joy of its own. You get to watch your half formed lump of clay look a little more like David and a little less like that play-doh project your toddler made.

I know lots of people think you plunk down your first draft, then you work through a revision or two as you  fine-tune spelling and punctuation. While that might have worked for my college term papers, I can’t think of a single college term paper I’d have spent precious free-time reading.

I have to confess, I am a bit tired of revising. While I am working through three different stories, I may need to take a break and write yet another first draft I will have to revise later. Still, it’s nice to have a pipeline of stuff to work on, even if it’s not always as exciting as writing new stuff.

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They say writing is rewriting, and I have found it to be true.

Have you found that to be true? Any tricks you use in your rewriting or editing process?

Shutting Up the Doubt-Demon

I’ve been struggling through this revision, and after over 6 weeks, I am approximately 40% done with it.

Yeah, I know, I’ve written most of a book in that time. This isn’t the first time I’ve rewritten this story. What is taking so long?

Other than the personal challenges we’ve been facing, the rewrite itself has been very challenging. Changing the point-of-view has been much harder than I thought, especially in the steamy scenes. These are some of the hardest for me to write, so having to tear them all apart and redo them from the ground up is extremely difficult.

Worse than that, however, is the crippling self-doubt.

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The doubt struck me out of nowhere, sucker punching me when I wasn’t expecting it. As I was reading through a chapter the other night, it dawned on me how absolutely awful this story is. How there’s no market for it, and even if there were, there’s nothing special about what I’ve written.

Not sure if that’s true, or if it’s the crippling self-doubt phase of writing. This phase seems to be quite common among writers, but it also seems to bleed into other endeavors.

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I follow a blogger who is working toward completing her first ironman. She struggles with doubt after most of her workouts. Yet, I’ve watched her make amazing progress. She admits her times are improving even if the workouts still suck.

But that’s something as a writer I don’t have: the ability to measure progress against an impartial metric. Did I run 3 miles in an hour? Thirty minutes? Fifteen minutes? Sure, I can tell you how many words I have on the page, but it’s not the same. 85,000 awesome words looks the same as 85,000 words that are more like brain vomit than storytelling.

I am trying to keep perspective. I don’t want this guy coming back and sabotaging the progress I have made.

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I started writing in earnest my freshman year of college. After six years of writing and getting nowhere with it, I put writing aside for several years, came back to it briefly, and shelved it again. My doubt-demon kept winning.

Granted, this work was really awful. Or, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know because my doubt-demon devoured it, and it’s gone forever.

So, no, this isn’t my last rewrite on this novel. Yes, it’s going to take at least one or two  more solid rewrites before this thing is ready for me to query.

That’s okay.

Plenty of crummy novels have been published, some have gone on to be bestsellers. Maybe mine will be crummy, too, but I can’t let the doubt-demon win again. Writing is something I’ve been working on over half my life. It’s time the doubt-demon shuts up, sits down, and lets me get this done.

Now, if only I can make him listen.

 

Top 7 Things to Focus on When Editing

I’ve talked to you about my first drafts and how they require a great deal of editing. I think most novels require some level of editing after they’re complete.

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As much as we’d all like to produce J.K. Rowling or Stephen King level work on our first draft, I have yet to see someone who does. I try so hard not to cringe when I hear a writer say they’ve just finished up, they’re going to take a look at it, and then self-publish.

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As I am working through this first rewrite, there are 7 things I really focus on:

1. Beta reader Comments – this isn’t entirely fair as I don’t even let a story out to Beta readers until I’ve done a revision or two. But once I do send it out, I take their comments very seriously. These are no people who’ve spent months with these characters in their heads. They frequently see things more clearly than I do as I sometimes get lost in the trees and can’t see the forest.

 

2. Characters – this is where I spend the lion’s share of my time. I’ve put together a lot of stuff on heroine analysis herehere and here. And on heroes here and here. During this first revision process, I know my character a lot better than when I was writing them. They’ve shown me more. I’ve been with them all the way through the end of the story. Seen their foibles, felt their fears. Seen them succeed or fail. I know a lot more about them, and I can bring that back through the whole story. Here are a few things I consider:

  • Do I like the hero or heroine? If either are unlikeable, time to rewrite. And no, this doesn’t mean they need to be “perfect”. Truly likeable characters seldom are.Is what the character doing within their personality?
  • Are they making choices true to them? For example, is the British spy-master forgetting who he is and what he does to marry a woman being manipulated by a French spy-master. Please, please, please tell me no. Or go back and rewrite it.
  • Do their words in the dialogue sound like them? I still struggle with this, but a prince and scullery maid should not be using the same words.
  • Do I want to see them get what they want? Will the characters getting what they want give the reader that happy smile that says “I just read a great romance novel”.

Invariably, I answer “no” to some of these things, and that means rewriting. Sometimes it means changing the characters early on in the story, and that usually flows into changes later.

And that means the ending must change. *sigh* Perhaps with practice, I’ll get better at getting the characters right earlier in the writing process and not have to scrap the last 10-15% of the story.

 

3. Point of View –  This is an area that an editor corrected me on. Once, romance authors were allowed to go back-and-forth between the hero and heroine’s point of view in the same scene. Best-selling authors and authors who started when this was allowed are still allowed to do this. Those of us that are trying to break into the genre aren’t. Changing the point-of-view and making sure I stick to it has been one of the most difficult aspects of rewriting for me.

 

4. Plot – A lot of this is taken care of by character actions. But, I want to make sure things are logical and consistent.

  • Is anything happening that appears weird, unusual or out of context?
  • Am I keeping things happening at a realistic but not boring clip? This should be true for the external plot as well as the romance itself.
  • The romance is the main plot. But I can’t tolerate lack-of-communication or stupidity, so it has to be real things keeping the characters apart.
  • Is it engaging? Do I want to know what happens next?

 

5. Descriptions – My first draft is pretty bare bones. What will ultimately be a 75,000 – 85,000 word novel starts out at around 50,000-60,00 when I’m done. Why? Because I’m so busy getting things done in the story that I skip right over descriptions. My first draft sort of takes place in a void. Yeah, there are occasional descriptors, but nothing that pulls in the reader with sounds and smells. Maybe even tastes.

 

6. De-Clunking –  Revising clunky words or phrases and streamlining the actual words themselves. This takes a larger chunk of time than it looks, but it’s important that the story reads well/

 

7. Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling I don’t bother much with this in the first edit as so much that’s going to be rewritten, I wait and save this revision for prose I’m pretty sure isn’t going to just get cut.

 

How about you? What’s your rewriting/editing strategy? How do you tackle it? What do you look for first? How long do you wait after writing the first draft to start revising it?

The Joy of . . .

Editing. You knew I was going to say editing.

After working through my latest book, I now have three in various stages of editing. While I thought I was to the finish line with Knight of Valor, some feedback I received on point-of-view is going to require a massive rewrite. Not in my bag of tricks at the moment. I am too invested in these characters still. Maybe not good, but I have other choices.

So that leaves the story I just finished or Crowned Prince. I’ve learned I can’t edit well when I’m too close to the story, and I’ve really only gone through Crowned Prince three times.

Some of you may write a pretty awesome first draft. That would not be me.

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Yeah, kinda like this.

 

I’m somewhat amused by non-writer friends who think a revision requires some fine-tuning of spelling and punctuation. While that might have worked for their college term papers, I want so much more from my writing. After all, I can’t think of a single college term paper I’d have spent precious free-time reading.

Rewriting, as hard and messy and unpleasant as it can be, has a certain joy of its own. You get to watch your half formed lump of clay look a little more like David and a little less like that play-doh project your toddler made.

Crowned Prince is in decent shape, but I need a more epic ending according to my beta reader. I get it, and I agree with it. The ending did feel rather taped on after all the other events of the story. I sometimes fall down at the end in my early drafts, and I need to clean that up.

I also need to work through point-of-view issues. Easier for me to do in Crowned Prince for some reason. Fortunately, I got that advice before I started my third novel, so the POV in that will be easier as it was written to follow the “new rules”.

So there it is. My project over the next few weeks (months?). Last time I delved into editing, my daughter was diagnosed with some medical issues. I didn’t have it in me to give the editing the full attention it deserved. I did get through it, but not the way I should have.

So, time to start again. And let’s hope this time it goes a little better.

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How about you? Does your first draft require a lot of editing? They say writing is rewriting. Have you found that to be true? Any tricks you use in your rewriting or editing process?

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

Yes, I am ignoring the fact that it’s Halloween. That I will most likely be spending the evening trudging through the brutal cold of the Great Lakes region at the end of October with a child dressed in a costume designed for Florida.

Instead, I’m focusing on this being the eve of NaNoWriMo 2016. This stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is the month were writers attempt to produce 50,000 new words in 30 days. That’s roughly 1,700 words a day.

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Many who will take part in the challenge have already begin plotting. Putting together their outlines, character sketches, and world maps to be ready for tomorrow. Some even clean the house, do laundry, and stash away frozen meals in preparation for being devoted to writing for the month.

I, however, have done none of those things. And not just because I have a spouse and two small children.

I will not be joining you this year.

I will be finishing up my last project which will equate to about 60,000 words in 6 weeks. Roughly 1.4k words a day versus the 1.7k NaNoWriMo wants. Might not be at the NaNoWriMo pace, but not too bad. And I kept my sanity.

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Instead, I will be making a concerted effort to rewrite and revise the three (yes three) novels I’ve completed and make them publication ready. My goal is to try to take these the traditional route through an agent and a publishing line like Avon.

I really want to join NaNoWriMo. I want to experience the camaraderie. The joy of making something new. But I also need to get this editing done. I need to have my books in a state where I can query them and try to get them out into the world.

What I really need is NaNoEdiMo National Novel Editing Month!

 

Let It Go

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Now just imagine a crystal palace at the top.

As I’m working on going through DDs clothes and toys, I’m struck by sadness and a little bit of waste as I give away beautiful outfits that she’s outgrown. Some still with tags on (she was a very late walker and couldn’t wear dresses and crawl).

But unless divine intervention undoes medical intervention, we won’t be having any more children. So, we no longer have a use for rattles or tiny little dresses.

With a bit of sadness and the hope someone else will enjoy the fact I loved playing dress-up with my daughters and bought them way too many girly dresses, I box them up to give them away.

It’s never easy, but I do it because there’s no point in keeping clothes that can never be worn again or toys that’ll only collect dust.

If only I could do this so easily with my writing.

I’ve heard Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings,” but for me, it’s more than just that.

Its one thing to cut words, it’s something else to cut chapters, a whole character, or the entire ending.

Yet, it’s still just as necessary as getting rid of old clothes. There’s no more point in having my story cluttered with ill-fitting characters, scenes or endings than there is keeping newborn clothes for my toddler, no matter how much I love those tiny overalls or Rose-printed dress.

While the concept is the same, the execution is vastly different.

I am 40,000 words into my third book (I know, I know, I should concentrate more on publishing what I have, but that isn’t fun). I was working away when I realized a scene I was writing would involve the hero and heroine apart for the next several chapters. By and large, that’s a quick way to annoy your Romance audience. The romance between the characters has to come first, the plot, while important, plays a back-up role. Read a handful of reviews on Amazon, and you’ll see what I mean.

I had written myself into a corner. I either had to separate the hero and heroine or I had to rewrite. In a first draft. Ugh. But I cut over 2,000 words and rewrote them. Back on track, with a little more clutter gone.

It’s pretty easy to know what fits your child and what doesn’t. It’s a whole lot harder to quickly see what works in your novel and what doesn’t. But once I do see it, I can’t un-see it. I try really hard not edit as I write, but sometimes it just happens.

In this case, I’m glad I rewrote now or the whole ending wouldn’t needed a full rewrite. It’s kind of like taking the cute dresses back once you learn DD isn’t going to be walking anytime soon.